(Media release from Georgia Northwestern Technical College):

A program of study at Georgia Northwestern Technical College (GNTC) is training students to guard sensitive information in a world where hackers are getting smarter every day.

“Cybersecurity is both protecting the computers of the world and finding security holes; it’s learning how to setup our networks and computers to protect them from threat agents who want to steal or destroy our information,” said Dwight Watt, instructor of Computer Information Systems Technology, adding that the technology also protects financial information.

“Thieves use phishing scams to ask people for information or ransomware in which they encrypt data in a form we cannot read and demand a ransom payment to get it back,” he said.

“Our financial information, medical information and personal information are all stored on computer servers, and that information becomes a target for attackers,” said Rocky Spurlock, director of GNTC’s Computer Information Systems Technology program. “In Cybersecurity, our goal is to protect the confidentiality, integrity and availability of the data so that only the people who should have access to the data can access it, that the data has not been changed and that it is available when it is needed.”

GNTC launched its Cybersecurity program in 2016. Courses cover security policies and procedures, implementing operating systems security, network security, network defense and countermeasures, ethical hacking and penetration testing, and computer forensics.

“It is essential that organizations have trained Cybersecurity professionals to protect their organization’s data,” Spurlock said.

“The demand for these jobs is growing explosively,” Watt explained. “Within the last year we had to wait in line for gas because threat actors encrypted information at the Colonial Pipeline. Every day we read where information is stolen and sold.

GNTC’s Cybersecurity program offers three career tracks. The technical certificate typically takes between 12 to 18 months to earn. Students take the basic Cyber courses and no general education courses.

“The technical certificate is aimed particularly at people with an associate degree or diploma who now want to learn Cybersecurity,” Watt said.

The associate degree and diploma tracks take approximately two years. The coursework for a diploma is almost the same, except the general education courses.

The Cybersecurity program is based on GNTC’s Catoosa County Campus; however, basic courses are also offered on the Floyd, Gordon, Walker, and Whitfield Murray Campuses. GNTC offers advanced courses mostly online, allowing students to be based at any campus, while some courses are offered in person.

Watt and Spurlock are the main instructors for the Cybersecurity program. Watt said he has worked in the field with various parts of Cybersecurity and continues to take classes on Cybersecurity and many other areas of information technology (IT); he holds the CySA+ and Security+ certifications, along with a number of other certifications. Watt holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and master’s degree in Business Administration from Winthrop University and a doctoral degree in Education Leadership from the University of Georgia. 

Spurlock received his bachelors and master’s degree in Information Technology from Kennesaw State University in Marietta. He has been an instructor for GNTC since 2009.

GNTC will host a Free Application Week, April 11-15, to help those who are seeking to enroll in the summer semester. That week GNTC will waive the $25 application fee for all new applicants. The admissions deadline for the summer semester is April 25. Classes are scheduled to begin on May 16.

GNTC is available through our call center Monday through Friday, 7:45 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., at (866) 983-4682. For more information on applying for the summer semester, visit  and click “Apply Now.” For any questions about GNTC’s Free Application Week, contact the Office of Admissions at (866) 983-4682 or via email at [email protected].